Monday, 22 December 2014

Notting Hill staff consider strike action

Staff at a London housing association are deciding whether to go on strike over proposed changes to their terms and conditions.

Almost half of the 210 members of trade union Unison at Notting Hill Housing Group took part in a vote to decide whether they should be balloted for strike action. A total of 95 per cent voted in favour and 5 per cent opposed the idea.

Unison said Notting Hill had proposed to abolish paid carers’ leave. The union also said the landlord was planning for staff redeployed to a lower-paid job to receive their original salary for six months rather than the current two years.

The trade union members are likely to vote on strike action within the next 10 days.

In a statement Notting Hill said it had carried out ‘extensive consultation and discussions with Unison’ over the ‘reasonable and competitive’ changes.

It said: ‘We value our staff and will continue to try to balance their needs with our commitment to delivering a first-class service.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • ‘We value our staff and will continue to try to balance their needs with our commitment to delivering a first-class service.’

    I strongly hope social housing staff everywhere realise that their bosses will not hesitate to take advantage with anything they can get away to lower their terms and conditions. All social housing staff should be more and more aware that they are working for their residents' needs and not for their bosses.

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  • Many staff especially those with young children are particularly concerned about the loss of not just carers leave, but also about losing flexi-time which is also being abolished. Working parents, particularly female members of staff that are juggling work and home commitments feel that they are being specifically targetted by these harsh measures which could be deemed as discriminatory.

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  • They also boast about having group reserves for 2008/9 of £188 million...wow..

    So its not as if the are changing the T&Cs to save money...

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  • From the TSA regulatory judgment in July 2009:

    "The group projects gearing to peak at 42% by 2014, which is relatively in line with the sector median. By year five, the group expects to increase debt by approximately £308m, reaching £1.1bn in 2014. Such a high debt burden is manageable within the business plan, on the basis of the underlying expectations of growing operating margins and reduced reliance on sales. In mitigation of risks in the current economic climate, the group's liquidity position is satisfactory with substantial un-drawn facilities and cash in hand."

    Or in lay terms the group has ambitious expansion plans based on reducing costs and efficiency drives and needs the reserves to help fund this expansion and manage the £1,100,000 debt it will incur in expanding to develop more housing for tenants.

    All landlords in such a drive will target staffing costs as they are the biggest expenditure cost - Im not commenting on whether thats right or wrong, its just a typical move by any large organisation

    Then again "reasonable and competitive" in managements views is seen as out of the "balance" they seek by 95% of those affected - a higher dissatisfaction rate than their miserly satisifaction rate of about 56% by its tenants

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  • The Group projects gearing to peak at 42% by 2014.

    Depending on the industry, a gearing ratio of 15% would be considered prudent while anything over 100% would be considered risky or 'highly geared'. (Check Google for a simple explanation). NHH is not short of money.

    Apart from this, staff are being coerced and bullied into signing contracts that are not legal and have not been agreed with any proper consultation with Unison. It is naked opportunism during a recession.

    Get efficient contractors who turn up and do a good job and see how tenant satisfaction shoots up. Easy solution. It's not the staff who are the problem...

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  • Sounds just like the same old NHHG I used to work for. Plus ca change...
    I expect the senior staff will not suffer, being cushioned by unbelievably high salaries and benefits. Hard to believe that one of them used to belong to the Revolutionary Communist Party! I wish the staff and union members a clear victory - remember, there really is strength in numbers. Stick together and stay strong, comrades.

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  • Love Where You Work.........but not your current terms and conditions!

    At times like this marketing spin doesn't really work does it?

    Oh...... and no junkets allowed.

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  • Senior management are now refusing to even negotiate and after 3 months of trying to talk, staff have been forced as a last resort to vote on strike action.

    I think the attitude of “some” of Notting Hill senior management is just incredible and frankly silly. Getting rid of Carer’s leave will cost £30k per year. This is just macho management postulating at its very worse. They are unable to cope with being challenged and just trying to prove something for nothing.

    This shows the danger of grossly inadequate checks and balances in the governance arrangements of some of our big Housing Associations whose senior managers appear to consider themselves to be some sort of new super ‘elite’ that have just lose touch with everyday reality.

    Notting Hill used to be a beacon of excellence to the sector. In public housing it has an incredibly proud socially responsible history. It has now apparently decided to join “a race to the bottom” for their staff while still paying its top tier of management bundles with all the usual perks. This is not just a problem for unions but unaccountable organisations which treat their staff like rubbish will also tend to treat their residents in exactly the same manner.

    It is no wonder the sector has such a bloody awful image problem and so many housing associations are so deeply distrusted and disliked (...and I am being “polite” here) by so many residents, councillors, assembly members and MPs of all political parties.

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  • It does surprise me that Notting Hill are being so brutal about this. As far as I'm aware, much of this has stemmed from a recent merger and an attempt to homogenise all staff T&Cs. In most mergers, they make this optional and work on the basis that staff turnover will lead to everyone being on the same contract in due course.

    NHHG seem to have made a rod for their own back with this, whilst simultaneously building a reputation as the 'New Genesis' by pursuing an aggressive development policy and buying up every piece of land in London without any real thought as to its true value. That's a very high risk strategy in itself, and has already seen Ujima implode and Genesis brought to its knees, but funding a tiny element of it through demoralising your staff will only make the problem worse.

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  • Let's not forget the ones who will ULTIMATELY will bear the cost of a demoralised staff of quality of services it's going to be... SURPRISE EVERYBODY?.. their tenants.
    Social Housing must be the only industry in the land where whatever and whoever commits whatever madness, the cost is passed onto their customers... For us tenant/customers it is not like if M&S messes things up we can just pop into Sainsburys for our sandwiches. No, we have no choice but pay for the mess.

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